INTERVIEW: Challenger Ashman promises to ‘make better happen’

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Challenger brand Ashman is hoping to disrupt SME banking with a mix of sustainability expertise and good service with its launch at the beginning of next year, says COO Simon Healy.

Ashman was founded by two property entrepreneurs, offering property-focused lending to businesses funded by a consumer-focused deposits business. The loans include options designed to support de-carbonisation in the real estate sector.

Ashman aims to target what has sometimes been dubbed the “missing middle” in the B2B market.

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“It’s not the larger businesses or the tiny ones,” Simon explains. “It’s the ones in between who have complex needs and are big enough that they probably need some professional support, but not so big that they’ve got large teams that manage their finances.

“A lot of these are great businesses but they don’t look simple and therefore fall out of some traditional lending processes.”

Ashman wants to enable the personal touch and power of relationships with clever technology to deliver services and products in an “easy, clear way.” Simon says that by understanding these businesses properly Ashman can help them unlock opportunities that wouldn’t be available otherwise.

This includes offering targeted and actionable know-how to guide SMEs in de-carbonising their properties, together with financial incentives to encourage the drive to net zero. There are growing commercial opportunities for sustainably-savvy businesses.


Making better happen

Ashman is not yet live in the market, with a launch slated for early Q1 2024. The firm has been finalising its Series B investment and completing regulatory processes to get the required banking licence.

Ahead of the launch the firm has been developing its brand, built around the tagline of “make better happen”.

Working with agency EveryFriday, the creation of the brand involved talking to brokers, target customers and staff.

“The thing that kept on coming through was a restlessness and a desire to try to move forward: a real passion across the board and belief that things could be done better.”

The idea of “better” splits into four pillars: better banking, better business, better buildings and better savings.

What does this actually mean in practice? One thing that Ashman aims to do better, for example, is how it approaches interest rates for its D2C savings customers. Simon argues that many providers exploit the inertia of customers.

“They understand something about the customer that possibly the customer doesn’t really overtly understand themselves and then they exploit it.”

Ashman aims to do the opposite and will actually work with customers, offering the same competitive deals to both new and existing.

“We’ll make sure you get a good deal irrespective of whether you engage or not. For example, when your fixed rate bond matures, even if you don’t talk to us, we’ll still put you into another well-paying account.”

Simon says the tagline sums up the idea of a target to continually improve things.

“It’s forever driving us forward to find the next better, and serves as a rallying cry for internal behaviours as much as an external slogan.”

He views brand as something that can orient the business, serving as a beacon that drive decisions and determines whether certain products should even be put into market.

“Brand is whatever a customer decides it is. It’s the image they hold of us in their head and I want to make sure that they are holding the right image.”

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